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Land secured for longest rail-to-trail project in Indiana

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Community, Environment, Government, Statewide News, Transportation
A railroad crossing sign from the old Monon Railroad line at The Depot Railroad Museum in Salem. The trail will takeover part of the now closed railroad line. (Kirsten Adair/IPB News)

Local and regional partners have secured the land for the longest recreation trail in the state. The Monon South Trail will be more than 60 miles long going from just north of Mitchell down to New Albany.

The trail will go through parts of Floyd, Clark, Washington, Orange and Lawrence counties.

It covers what used to be the Monon Railroad line — an in-state train route that stopped taking passengers in the late 1960s. Gov. Eric Holcomb said the line wasn’t just used for shipping and commerce — it also helped connect communities. He said that’s what this trail will do too.

“Our goal is for every Hoosier to be within five mile access to a trail, so this is a huge push — and pull quite frankly — toward getting closer to realizing that goal in one project,” Holcomb said.

The orange line shows roughly where the Monon South Trail will go. (Courtesy of NextLevel Trails dashboard)

Holcomb said the trail will hopefully bring business and tourism to southern Indiana.

Steve Ferguson of Cook Group Incorporated said more than half of the state’s counties have seen their populations drop.

“A declining population hurts your schools, hurts your businesses. It is a — you know — it’s a death mode,” he said.

Ferguson said these kinds of projects revitalize rural communities. He also said the state needs to continue to connect trails into Bedford.

More than 400,000 people live within 10 miles of the proposed trail. The project is part of the state’s Next Level Trails initiative — which is the largest state funding effort for trails in Indiana’s history.

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About $150 million has been awarded for trails projects in Indiana so far. Lawmakers added another $30 million for the initiative in this latest budget.

The city of New Albany will own and maintain the part of the trail in Floyd County. The regional economic development partnership, Radius Indiana, will manage the rest.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.